State and Local Government Section Council Members Set for 2021 – 2022

By Frank Johnson
Deputy City Attorney, City of Gaithersburg

Council members serve the Section primarily through their work on committees, including the Programs, Communications, Legislative, and Membership/Nominations Committees. Their work includes creating the annual State and Local Government Law Institute and other networking programs during the year, helping to establish this blog, and continuing to provide newsletters and other information. Section Council members for this year include:

  • Amanda Stakem Conn, Section Chair, General Counsel, WSSC;
  • Kimberly Hale Carney, Section Vice-Chair, Assistant Attorney General (Dept. of Labor);
  • Patrick B. Hughes, Section Secretary, Office of the Attorney General;
  • Robert A. McFarland, Section Treasurer, Assistant Attorney General (Dept. of Natural
    Resources);
  • Frank Johnson, Immediate Past Chair and Newsletter Editor, Dep. City Attorney, Gaithersburg;
  • Patrick W. Thomas, MacLeod Law Group;
  • Charles W. Thompson, Executive Director, International Municipal Lawyers Association;
  • John Mattingly, Assistant County Attorney, Calvert County;
  • Christopher J. Mincher, Senior Deputy Legal Counsel, Office of the Governor;
  • Jerome Spencer, General Counsel, Charles County Sheriff’s Office;
  • Talley H-S. Kovacs, Assistant Attorney General (Dept. of Natural Resources);
  • Elissa Levan, partner, Funk and Bolton P.A.;
  • Paul Cucuzzella, Assistant Attorney General (Dept. of Planning);
  • Kathleen Chapman, Administrative Law Judge, Office of Administrative Hearings;
  • Anand Parish, Assistant Attorney General (Dept. of the Environment);
  • Roscoe Leslie, County Attorney, Worcester County;
  • Tom Mitchell, Assistant County Attorney, Anne Arundel County.

Enforcement powers change for the Public Information Act Compliance Board

By Frank Johnson
Deputy City Attorney, City of Gaithersburg

The General Assembly made some significant changes to the Public Information Act (Md. Code Ann., General Provisions, Sec. 4-101 et seq.) this year. First, as part of the changes related to police reform, Senate Bill 178 removed the confidentiality of certain police personnel records, now allowing disclosure of police misconduct files unless there is a finding that the public interest requires withholding those files.

As to the Public Information Act Compliance Board, House Bill 183 made significant enforcement changes for both the Ombudsman and the Board itself. The Board’s jurisdiction is now limited to fees, but will expand, such that the Board will now hear disputes on fees, denials, redaction, or a failure to respond, and custodian requests to find PIA requests as frivolous.

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Law Institute moves to May 2022

By Frank Johnson
Deputy City Attorney, City of Gaithersburg

The State and Local Government Section Council, in its first remote meeting in July, decided to move the annual Law Institute from fall (usually late October) to the spring. While the Institute had originally been moved to the fall to allow better budget planning for the months thereafter, holding it in the spring should have no budget impact, at least for this year, as there have been limited costs to the Section during the pandemic. That’s because there have been no in-person events, and thus no catering or location-related costs.

Additionally, all MSBA events until the end of the year will need to be virtual. By scheduling in the spring, there is some hope that the event can be in-person, likely at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission headquarters in Laurel, as in past years.

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Welcome from the new Section Chair

By Amanda Conn
General counsel, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

Happy end of summer to all of the members of the State and Local Government Law Section. As the new chair of the Section, I know we will have a productive year despite all of the challenges we might face.

I have been thinking about how excited we all were at the beginning of the summer when we thought the COVID pandemic was finally coming to an end with normalcy right around the corner, and where we are now at the end of summer. One of the important lessons from these long and trying 18 months is that circumstances can change very quickly so don’t get too comfortable. 

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Takings Clause reach expands to limit land use and zoning regulation

By Frank Johnson
Deputy City Attorney, City of Gaithersburg

The ability to control land use and zoning is a critical authority of state and local government, in Maryland and otherwise. The MSBA State and Local Government Law section, prior to its May 26 annual business meeting, hosted a presentation about the impact of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause on land use regulation, and
in partnership with the Administrative Law Section hosted a panel discussion at the MSBA Summit on June 10 on the impact of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

The May 26 presentation was by Matt Littleton, a partner with Donahue, Goldberg, Weaver & Littleton in the District of Columbia, who has represented numerous state and local governments confronted with Fifth Amendment Takings claims, including before the U.S. Supreme Court. (Before that, he worked on similar cases for the U.S. Department of Justice.) He spoke on the historical background of the Takings Clause as well as current trends in takings litigation, and how the Supreme Court’s added emphasis to the reach of the clause could have a significant impact, limiting regulatory authority overall, and certainly restricting the reach of county and municipal land use regulations.

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New law protects retired K-9s

By Frank Johnson
Deputy City Attorney, City of Gaithersburg

The General Assembly this year focused on many bills addressing all elements of police reform. But SB 156 involves veterinary care costs for retired K9s.

The bill, which the Governor signed, mandates that, as of July 1, 2021, state and local police forces cover the “reasonable and necessary” vet costs proven by a receipt, up to $2,500 a year and $10,000 “over the life of the dog.” The bill also creates a state K-9 Compassionate Care Fund, which can include donations to cover such expenses, and allows local governments to create their own funds.

Section Council names new officers, members

By Frank Johnson
Deputy City Attorney, City of Gaithersburg

We will this year have new leadership for the State and Local Government Section Council, including new officers and Section Council members. It’s been my pleasure to serve as Chair for the last few years, and I’m very happy to welcome Amanda Stakem Conn, WSSC Counsel, as Chair for 2021.

I also welcome Kimberly Hale Carney, Assistant Attorney General (Department of Labor) as Vice-Chair. Patrick Hughes, with the Office of the Attorney General, will continue serving as Secretary, and Robert McFarland, Assistant Attorney General (Department of Natural Resources) will serve as Treasurer. I’ve enjoyed working with them on the Section Council and they’ll serve the Section well.

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The Section’s Fall Institute 2020 had something for everyone

By Robert McFarland
Assistant attorney general, Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Needless to say, what goes on in government agencies affects the private realm in one way or another. Many in our MSBA membership who practice in the private sector often interface with government agencies on behalf of their clients. We who advise government agencies work with the agencies to help them work with the private side. Thus, having a forum where we can meet and share our knowledge and experience from both perspectives is desirable.

The MSBA’s State and Local Government Section naturally focuses on matters of governmental interest, but is also a forum for both private and government practitioners to help work together more effectively for our clients, whoever they may be. Just as in other sections, we seek to be a resource to all our MSBA members, so in the COVID-driven virtual world the State and Local Government Section was proud to present virtually in the end of October its Fall Institute for all Association members.    

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Introducing the Maryland State and Local Government Law Blog

By Chris Mincher

The Maryland State Bar Association State and Local Government Law Section is proud to unveil this blog, a forum — the first in the state, as far as we can tell — for commentary and news relevant to Maryland’s government practitioners. Authored by Section members (and the occasional special invited guest), the blog aims to be a prime source for information on a wide range of topics that impact government law practice, including:

  • Developing legal issues
  • Recent cases
  • Legislative changes
  • Section programs and offerings
  • News
  • Job opportunities and personnel changes in government law offices
  • Practice tips
  • Interviews with prominent current and former government attorneys.

The goal is for ever-changing original and diverse viewpoints (but not, we should add, advocacy on behalf of writers’ clients) from a robust cast of contributors. “Goal” is the operative word here, as it takes time to build up a roster of bloggers, establish a steady flow of articles, and draw an audience of repeat viewers. This is especially true when — as many on the Section Council have already learned — government employers may discourage or prohibit their attorneys from engaging in public commentary on the law.

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